Beginning the Journey Towards Body Acceptance
Unfortunately, we do not currently live in a world that teaches us to love and accept our bodies. Instead, we are taught to be hyper critical of what our bodies look like and how they perform. As Dr. Emily Nagoski puts it in her book ‘Come As You Are’, when we are born most of us are celebrated and called beautiful bundles of joy; every roll, wrinkle, and hair is adored. Then somewhere along the way we start to believe there is something wrong with us, with our bodies, and we begin to reject the bodies we were born into. While it takes time to break down the habits of criticism and origins of negative beliefs, it is possible. If you feel ready or even curious to explore what body acceptance might feel like, here are some tools to start your journey.
The game is rigged against you.
It is crucial we understand that we were not born with the self-deprecating thoughts we have today. We are given cultural permission to criticize our bodies. We are pressed against the expectation that health and beauty come in one extra-small size we try to fit ourselves into. The cultural standard of beauty will always be unattainable because there is profit to be made off of our self-hating beliefs. You did not choose these beliefs. They were inflicted upon you, but you have a choice to continue to buy into them or label them as the bullshit that they are.
Is this thought helpful?
Start to take mental notice of how often you are having body critical thoughts. Once you can notice the thought is happening, ask yourself how this thought affects you. What is it doing for you to say those things to yourself? Is it doing more harm than good? Imagine taking the thought out of your brain and inspecting it from all angles.
Saying the thoughts out loud.
Often the thoughts we direct at ourselves are much crueler than what we would ever say out loud to someone else. Try challenging yourself to break this cycle by saying body criticizing thoughts out loud, looking at yourself in the mirror instead of allowing them to exist freely inside your mind. How does it feel to hear these thoughts aloud?
Another avenue to try is moving toward body neutrality. In doing so, we begin to intentionally shift from thoughts like “my legs are so gross and big” to “these are my legs, and they allow me to walk and get to where I need to go.” We move from a critical stance of judging how our body looks to a stance of neutral observance of what our body does for us.
If you say to yourself, “I need to be critical of my body or else I will never change,” then you can try setting limits for the critical thoughts. Maybe the intention is to practice body neutrality while allowing yourself an hour a day to express the critical thoughts. The goal here is to gain more control over the frequency of body negative thoughts.
Evaluate surrounding content.
If you use social media, reflect on the affect is has on you. How does spending an hour on social media affect the way you feel toward your body? Ask yourself if using social media is good for your well being or if it is an easy escape. Begin to assess what type of content you are seeing. Is your feed full of unattainable and unrealistic examples of bodies? If so, diversify what you are seeing. Seek out creators who promote body acceptance. Give yourself examples of what loving yourself can look like.
Find a role model.
Thankfully, times are shifting. In movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts, we are seeing more and more examples of people accepting their bodies just as they are. Start to surround yourself with as much of this content as you can and take notice of how it begins to re-mold the way you see yourself.
Redefine your relationship with movement.
First, assess your current relationship with movement. Is it tied to working out? Is it something that is done to change your body to look a certain way? Notice how it feels to demand change from your body. Maybe you’re not ready to stop working out to lose weight. That’s okay. This is at your own pace. Can you take one hour a week to try to explore movement for the sake of having fun? What would it be like to move for pleasure: to swim, dance, walk, hike, play a sport, play with your dog, stretch, or climb a tree? What is something that moves your body and makes you happy? How do you feel toward your body after you engage in this activity?
These are just some ideas to get the ball rolling. If your ship has been moving toward body criticism for a long time, it will take some time and effort to turn this ship in another direction. I encourage you to find what works for you and start to incorporate daily tasks to begin to shift your thinking and relationship with your body. If this starts to feel overwhelming or unattainable, like the messaging is just too strong, know there is help out there. There are people trained to dismantle those beliefs. You are not alone.
Breathe in self-compassion. Breathe out toxic messaging about your body. We will probably always be able to find things we dislike about our bodies. However, we have the option to wake up every day and choose actions that move us towards body acceptance. It’s a lifelong practice of making the intentional choice to try to live in harmony with the bodies we call home.
Skylar Naron is an LPC- Associate, passionate about helping people let go of shame in order to feel a greater sense of self-love. Her clients may be experiencing body image issues, pain during sex, religious sexual shame, a loss of intimacy, or sexual anxiety. Skylar empowers her clients to let go of negative thoughts patterns in order to adopt new affirming beliefs about themselves. She believes in the healing power of mindfulness practices and implements these techniques into her work with clients.
If you are interested in working with Skylar, you can schedule an appointment online or call the office at 512-994-2588 and ask to be scheduled with Skylar.